Theresa Siaw is the founder of the OMNI Medical Student Training Program, which helps students who have trained at foreign medical schools to prepare for their first job in the United States. It is her passion for improving not just the physical health but also the whole life of the community.
As a woman of color, the odds are stacked against Theresa in just about any venture she takes on, but that has never stopped her or let it hold her back from pursuing her passions. Working with OMNI Healthcare, a medical clinic that provides services to the underserved members of the community and those in need, she founded her student medical training program which helps students who have trained at foreign medical schools prepare for residencies in the United States. Of the 39% of 28 million small business owners, Theresa makes up part of the 10% of women that open a business in the healthcare industry, which is twice as much as their male counterparts. Not only has she faced the obstacles most women face when opening a business, she also had to overcome more by being a woman of color.
While she spent many years trying to rebuild her community in a philanthropic manner, Theresa took her entrepreneurial spirit, both in the business and philanthropic sectors, and decided to bring them together and run for local political office. Moving into politics, she faced many of the same hurdles she had to overcome in her entrepreneurial journey, many of which involve the fact that she was a woman of color and people told her she would never be successful because of it. Not only was her desire to run for office motivated by the desire to bring positive change to her community, but also to show other women, especially those of color, that just because they are underrepresented in politics does not mean they do not belong.
What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Myself, my true self and the journey I have been on. I try and look through my past, and I see how far I have come and remind myself that I am still progressing. Its ok to not be perfect as long as you keep pushing forward and don’t let it define you.
How have you used an adversity to drive you toward success?
I have used adversity to motivate myself to make everyday better. Despite all that I have been through I don’t let those instances hinder me or hold me back, but rather use them to push me forward. I have experienced great loss in my life, and in rather quick succession, but I use that to remember how valuable each day is. Tomorrow is never guaranteed to work today for what you want.
I remind myself that those adversities are part of what made me who I am. Losing the father of my son was very difficult, but I wanted his legacy to live on and I threw myself into making sure his business was successful and then expanded on it by creating the OMNI Medical Student Training Program. Not only do I want to carry on his legacy for him, I want to provide a future for my son and a way to remember his father.
Tell us about your life’s work?
My life work is to always help others. Whether it be through my businesses or philanthropic work, every move I make I want to make sure that I am able to help at least one other person as a result.
Any big projects coming in the future?
I just recently became the president of Bootstrap Village, a non-profit that helps place the homeless in tiny home villages. As the President, I want to do all we can and get more communities involved in the initiative to place people in homes rather than just continue to move them around the city and displace them further.
What do you love most about yourself and what you do?
I never give up, I always find a way to achieve my goals. I am a fighter, and will never stop fighting.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I want to be the CEO of a hospital. And as someone who never gives up, I plan on making that goal a reality, ideally within the next ten years. If I don’t make it happen in ten years, I will work until I do make it happen.
Do you have any tips for women?
It’s ok to be emotional. It shows your realness. Everyone has emotions and being honest with yourself about them is the most healthy way to manage them. If we try and hold them all inside, you’re bound to explode and those repressed emotions
How do you hope to empower women or is there an imprint you’d like to leave?
I try and support as many women owned businesses as possible, whether it be in my personal life but also with my vendors and employees
What do you think your ultimate purpose in life is?
I want to make at least one person successful. My purpose is to help others and help them achieve their own greatest potential.
How do you think we, together, can help women gain confidence and reach their fullest potential?
People need to stop treating us as women as fragile. This ties into expressing our feelings. If we support each other and remind each other that it is ok to feel and express our emotions then we can push forward and be successful as a group. If we can be confident in how we are feeling, it is one less thing we need to worry about when navigating the world. We will be more free to pursue our goals and dreams without having to second guess if we’re being “too emotional” which might make us be taken less seriously by others.